SwimSwam’s Top 100 For 2022: Men’s #10-1

Our Top 100 For 2022 series comes to a close with the top 10 men’s swimmers in the world for 2022.

The rankings are heavily weighted towards the Long Course World Championships, but also factors in other championship-level international meets, plus ISL scoring potential.

We’ll break down the list into multiple installments, so stay tuned as we continue with our lists.

These lists are, by nature, subjective. If you disagree, leave your thoughts/ranks in the comments.

See also:

#10: Kyle Chalmers, Australia – Chalmers has been incredibly consistent at the top of the sport in the men’s 100 freestyle since 2016, winning the Olympic gold medal in Rio, claiming the Pan Pac title in 2018, and then falling just shy of Caeleb Dressel in back-to-back finals at the 2019 World Championships and 2021 Olympic Games. All of this came in spite of numerous injuries and health complications, which is what forced him out of the 2017 Worlds, and given what he showed us at the end of the year, the best may still be yet to come. Competing on the FINA World Cup circuit in October, Chalmers broke the 13-year-old super-suited world record in the SCM 100 freestyle in a blistering time of 44.84, and given that he’s historically been better in the long course pool, we could see him take things to a new level in 2022. The 23-year-old was a PB of 47.08 in the 2019 Worlds final and then matched that at the Olympics, and it seems as though he’s destined to get into the 46s this year. One thing that holds him back from being ranked a little bit higher is that Chalmers has always put his other events, mainly the 200 free, on the backburner in order to focus on the 100 free and the Aussie relays at major championships. He won the 200 at the Australian Olympic Trials last year and then gave up his spot at the Games, still finishing the year ranked 10th in the world (1:45.48). While he might not even be at Worlds (if they happen) given that top Aussies are rumored to be focusing on the Commonwealth Games, Chalmers will give Dressel all he can handle in the 100 free if he is in Fukuoka, and we could see him explore the 200 free individually (and maybe even the 50 free or 100 fly) later in the year at the Commonwealth Games.

#9: Ryan Murphy, USA – Murphy did it all in 2016, keeping the American streak alive by sweeping the men’s 100 and 200 backstroke at the Olympic Games, while also breaking the 100 back world record leading off the victorious men’s 400 medley relay. After that dominance, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t won an individual gold medal at either the Olympics or Long Course World Championships in the years since. The 26-year-old has won silver three consecutive times in the 200 back between LC Worlds and the Tokyo Olympics, while earning a pair of bronzes in the 100 back. Despite the fact that he hasn’t gotten over the hump in recent years, Murphy has consistently been in the top two or three each and every year and could easily win one of the men’s backstroke races at the next big international meet, if not two or three. In 2021, he was the third-fastest man in the world in the 100 back (52.19) and second in the 200 back (1:54.15), not a far cry from his best times (51.85/1:53.57). He’s also a big threat in the 50 back, owning a best of 24.24, and is coming off of breaking his American Record in the SCM event during the ISL season (22.53).

A constant presence on major international podiums since the Rio breakout, expect Murphy to be there for years to come. He’s also proven to be among the top ISL scorers, ranking fourth leaguewide in 2020 with 329 points and then winning 10 events last season despite only competing during the playoffs.

#8: Kliment Kolesnikov, Russia – Kolesnikov has been marked as a sensational talent on the rise for years, but he really stepped things up a few notches in 2021. The Russian native had found a ton of success in the 50 backstroke in long course, setting the world record in 2018, and was also a dominant force in short course meters. But outside of a gold medal in the 100 back at the 2018 Euros, his performances (in Olympic events) on the big stage still left something to be desired. That all changed last year, as the 21-year-old had an incredible showing in the big pool. Kolesnikov took his 100 back time down from 52.53 entering the year to 52.00 in the Olympic final, winning silver behind countryman Evgeny Rylov, and also asserted himself as one of the best 100 freestylers in the world, winning Olympic bronze (47.44) after hitting a European Record of 47.11 in the semis. Kolesnikov also broke the world record twice in the LC 50 back at Euros in May, bringing the mark down two-tenths to 23.80, and won a second individual European title in the 100 free. He finished the year by winning six medals at the Short Course World Championships, including a pair of individual golds in the 50 back and 100 IM.

Kolesnikov is one of the sport’s most intriguing talents. If we pretend that the World Championships will happen in 2022 (still nothing official), he’s a massive favorite to win the 50 back and has a great shot in the 100 free and 100 back. Those two events are currently loaded at the top, from Caeleb Dressel and Kyle Chalmers to Evgeny Rylov and Ryan Murphy, but Kolesnikov’s fastest times of 2021 were only a combined .11 off of what won Olympic gold.

#7: Duncan Scott, Great Britain – Scott’s skill set is one rarely seen at the highest level of swimming. Where else are you going to find a swimmer that can anchor a freestyle relay in 46.14—the second-fastest split in history—and crack 4:00 in the SCM 400 IM? The 24-year-old has earmarked the 200 free and 200 IM as his primary events in long course, levelling up from taking third and fifth, respectively, at the 2019 World Championships to claiming silver in both at the Tokyo Olympic Games. As previously noted, the Glasgow native is also an outstanding 100 freestyler, but has opted out of it individually of late due to scheduling conflicts with the 200 IM. His versatility was on full display in Season 3 of the ISL, finishing fifth overall (and second among men) with 390 points on the campaign while winning six different events at least twice.

Scott is a gold medal threat at the highest level in two events, has the skills to challenge for a podium in the 100 free, and is a weapon in the ISL. Expect big things in 2022.

#6: Daiya Seto, Japan – Not only is Seto the only swimmer that didn’t win an Olympic medal in 2021 (eight out of the top 10 men claimed at least two individually), but he only made the final in one of his three events in Tokyo. Given how relatively poor the Japanese native’s year was, it speaks to the level of ability he’s shown previously that he still ranks so highly here. Seto was explosive in early 2020, setting himself up for an incredible Olympics on home soil. The 27-year-old rocketed to lifetime bests in the 200 fly (1:52.53), 200 IM (1:55.55) and 400 IM (4:06.09) in the month of January, with the latter two significantly faster than what he did to win the 2019 World Championship titles. However, after the Games were postponed, things went south for Seto, including relinquishing his Japanese Olympic team captaincy due to an ethics violation. He never found the mojo he had pre-pandemic, and ended up fourth in the 200 IM (1:56.22), ninth in the 400 IM (4:10.52) and 11th in the 200 fly (1:55.50) in Tokyo. But we can’t ignore the fact that his 400 IM time from 2020 would’ve won Olympic gold by more than three seconds, and his 200 fly and 200 IM swims would’ve placed him comfortably on the podium.

We got to see a glimpse of what Seto is capable of at the SC World Championships in Abu Dhabi, as he roared to double gold in the 200 and 400 IM while putting up the 11th and fourth-fastest swims in history, respectively. Moving into this year, as he’s been sampling different training spots in the United States, Seto is more than capable of returning to the top of the podium on the big stage in LC—he’s already done it in SC. Having won three of the last four LC World titles in the 400 IM and the 2019 crown in the 200 IM, look for Seto to be back in the winner’s circle come the next World Championships, whenever that is.

#5: Kristof Milak, Hungary – Milak was the newest member of an elite club in the lead-up to the Tokyo Games, joining names like Katie Ledecky, Adam Peaty and Caeleb Dressel as a swimmer who was a near-lock to win an event at the Olympics. There are favorites, and then there are those that stand so far above the rest in one race, it’s hard to imagine anyone beating them. That was the case for Milak in the men’s 200 butterfly, as the Hungarian smashed everyone at the 2019 World Championships so decisively that the outcome of the race in Tokyo was a foregone conclusion. In Gwangju, he torched Michael Phelps’ world record in the event in a time of 1:50.73, winning gold by over three seconds. Milak then looked smooth in dropping a pair of 1:51s in early 2021, making it look like another world record in the event was imminent. In Tokyo, it’s probably fair to say no one looked more disappointed after winning their first Olympic gold medal than Milak, who pulled away to a comfortable win in 1:51.25, but clearly desired a faster time. Nonetheless, his margin was still almost two and a half seconds, and he followed that up by pushing Dressel to the limit in the 100 fly final, becoming the second-fastest performer in history en route to the silver medal in 49.68.

Milak also made great strides in some other strokes in 2021. The 21-year-old is now a 48.0/1:45.7 freestyler, and also broke the Hungarian Record in the SCM 50 back (23.08). Right now he’s clearly #1 in the world in the 200 fly, #2 in the 100 fly, and if he continues to improve, will be a player down in the line in one of the freestyle events.

#4: Bobby Finke, USA – One could argue that ranking Finke this high is giving too much weight to the phenomenal week he had last summer in Tokyo. Sure, Finke caught fire and won two Olympic gold medals in his debut Olympic Games, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s something he can match at the next World Championships. Since the beginning of 2019, Finke is only the fifth-fastest man in the 800 free (7:41.87) and fourth in the 1500 free (14:39.65), with Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri leading both with respective times of 7:39.27 and 14:33.10. But when it mattered most last year, it was Finke who got his hand on the wall first. Although he was facing off against swimmers who had been significantly faster than him in the past, the 22-year-old showed that he can hang with the best in the world up until the last 50, and then blow by them. Moving into the next major international meet, you’ve got to think the other top distance dogs, like Paltrinieri, Florian Wellbrock and Mykhailo Romanchuk, will have it in their head that they need to break away from Finke early in the race to have a chance. That’s a massive mental edge to have before the race even starts. The aforementioned three Europeans have also been somewhat inconsistent in swimming their fastest times at the major meets. Finke hasn’t yet accrued enough experience to give us an idea of whether he can consistently perform on the big stage or not, but after what we saw in Tokyo, you wouldn’t bet against it.

#3: Evgeny Rylov, Russia – Rylov is one of just three male swimmers who have won three straight Olympic or World Championship titles in the same event, having gone undefeated in the 200 backstroke in Budapest (2017), Gwangju (2019) and Tokyo (2021). He was also dominant at the 2018 European Championships, breaking (now the former) Euro Record in a time of 1:53.36, and since taking bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, really hasn’t been seriously challenged in the event on the big stage. In Tokyo, after breaking his European Record in 1:53.23 earlier in the year, Rylov won gold by nearly nine-tenths in a time of 1:53.27, ending the U.S. streak of six straight Olympic titles. That swim came on the heels of his win in the 100 back, where he ousted countryman Kliment Kolesnikov by .02 in 51.98. That win also broke a run of six straight gold medals won by the Americans, with Ryan Murphy, the 2016 champion in both events, settling for bronze in the 100 and silver in the 200. Rylov is also a phenomenal short course swimmer, ranking 13th in the ISL last season with 271.5 points for Energy Standard. In addition to the 100 and 200 back, he’s also sneaky-good at the 50 back, and has an underrated ability in freestyle.

The 25-year-old isn’t quite in Milak territory in terms of the dominance in one event, but he’s unquestionably the man to beat the 200 back. In the 100 back, it’s close at the top between three guys, but Rylov’s Tokyo swim puts him at the head of that pecking order for the time being.

#2: Adam Peaty, Great Britain – Looking solely at his performances relative to his competitors, Peaty has been the most dominant male swimmer in the world over the last six and a half years. At major international competitions, Peaty generally isn’t racing as frequently as the other names in the top 10, but when he does, he’s virtually unbeatable. The Brit has won two straight Olympic gold medals, three straight LC World Championship titles and four consecutive LC European Championships in the men’s 100 breaststroke, having reset the world record five times over that timeframe. Prior to Peaty breaking it, the event’s world record stood at 58.46. Now he’s brought it down to a mind-boggling 56.88. In the 50 breast, the 27-year-old is the three-time defending world champion and reigning four-time European champion, though he did fall once in the event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games to South African Cameron van der Burgh (also the holder of that previous 100 breast WR of 58.46).

After hitting that 56.88 record at the 2019 Worlds, Peaty won Olympic gold in Tokyo in 57.37. Still a comfortable win by almost seven-tenths, but maybe not up to the lofty standards he’s set for himself. Having set a goal of breaking the 57-second barrier, “Project 56,” and then achieving it, Peaty is now eyeing “Project Immortal,” described as being “doing a time that can never be beaten.” While he hasn’t specified the exact time he’d like to hit, Peaty is clearly not happy resting on his laurels, and will continue to push the boundaries of what can be done in breaststroke. He would be a big favorite to win the 50 and 100 breast at the 2022 Worlds simply by showing up, but with this motivation behind him, we could be in store for some new records as well.

#1: Caeleb Dressel, USA – Dressel has reached superstar status due to the success he’s had in the sport over the last four years, highlighted by the five gold medals he won at the Tokyo Games. After getting his feet wet at the 2016 Olympics, Dressel exploded for seven gold medals at the 2017 World Championships, including individual titles in the men’s 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly. He defended all three titles in 2019, and added a fourth in the 50 fly, leading him into the 2021 Olympic Games. All of the pressure was on Dressel in Tokyo—he had won 13 World Championship gold medals in the time since Rio, including seven individual titles, but still hadn’t won that elusive individual Olympic gold medal. With all eyes on him, Dressel got it done at the Games, first winning the 100 free in a nail-biter over Kyle Chalmers before breaking his world record en route to gold in the 100 fly, and then capping his individual schedule with a decisive victory in the 50 free.

While fans are constantly chomping at the bit to see Dressel expand his event schedule, with various projections of what he could do with a full taper in the 200 free, 200 IM or even the 200 fly, Dressel doesn’t need any additions to be recognized as the best male swimmer in the world. The 25-year-old is the undisputed #1 in the 50 free, 100 free and 100 fly, and is one of a handful of swimmers in the mix to be the top 50 fly swimmer on any given day. The former University of Florida star was also the top ISL swimmer in 2020, winning Season 2 MVP honors by more than 100 points. Last season he wasn’t at his best, which is fair given he was coming off the prolonged Olympic cycle, but in top form, no one is better than him in the short course pool.

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Guilherme Freitas
3 months ago

Seto #6??? What a joke…

Swimmka
3 months ago

The reason why Milak is so underrated because Swimswam doesn’t believe ( or doesn’t want to admit) that Dressel is beatable on 100FLY. On the other hand the facts are suggesting that this should not be the case. The first time Milak and Dressel met on a major swimming event was the 2017 WC. Dressel went 49,86 Milak 50,62. Four years later at the Olimpic Dressel went 49,45 (0.41 seconds less) Milak 49,68 (0.94 seconds less – more than double of Dressel’s improvement). Meanwhile Milak had established himself as the GOAT of 200FLY while Dressel did not mark such a special territory for himself. And Milak was the same age at the olimpics as Dressel on the 2017 WC …… Read more »

Tony
Reply to  Swimmka
3 months ago

Milak had a good Tokyo. Dressel sleepwalks his way to sub-50 time after time. (Let’s not forget that 49.03 fly relay leg, the fastest ever.)

Philip Johnson
Reply to  Swimmka
3 months ago

Milak the GOAT of the 200 fly? Have we already forgotten about Phelps?

Swimmka
Reply to  Philip Johnson
3 months ago

Look at the list of all-time top 10 time. The answer is pretty evident.

Philip Johnson
Reply to  Swimmka
3 months ago

Olympic medals, WC medals, longevity, Phelps has all that but okay.

Brownish
Reply to  Philip Johnson
3 months ago

Yes, but this was MP’s event and now and in the future is Milák’s.

Philip Johnson
Reply to  Brownish
3 months ago

I agree, I just disagreed with the notion that he’s the “GOAT of 200FLY”.

Milak hasn’t achieved a fraction of what Phelps has in that event so let’s hold the phone.

Swimmka
Reply to  Philip Johnson
3 months ago

In 200FLY he actually achieved all. Or even more ( as he had all titles and records at junior category as well ) and he is only 21…

STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
3 months ago

Milak is just as dominant in the 200BF as Peaty is in the 100BS. In addition, his 49.68 in the 100BF in Tokyo indicates he has more than an outside chance of upsetting Dressel next time around. I would have Milak second because there is no-one below him who is a virtual certainty for gold in his primary event and/or has a decent shot for gold in other events. Bobby Finke is a little bit high. Paltrinieri, Wellbroch and Romanchuk have all been faster than him in the 800 and 1500. Finke peaked in Tokyo and they didn’t so good luck to him. But can you count on that being repeated in the future?

Chad
3 months ago

This is just criminal having Milak as anything behind the second slot in these rankings. Complete lock in the 200 fly, could very well challenge Dressel in the 100 fly at worlds (or whatever meet they clash at next), and has a lot of potential in the 100 free and 200 free (at least in relays).

I can sort of hear a similar argument for Rylov, but he hasn’t taken down any GOAT’s world record. Peaty is just as, if not more, dominant in the 100 breast as Milak in the 200 fly, but has no versatility. Finke is no doubt on the rise, but those distance events are getting crowded and I wouldn’t say he’s a clear favorite… Read more »

AnEn
Reply to  Chad
3 months ago

I wouldn’t call it criminal, but after checking the facts, i actually think that Milak should be 2nd. I thought that you could justify ranking Rylov ahead of him (2 golds vs. 1), but Milak is clearly faster than Rylov in the 200 free and to some degree in the 100 free. In addition to that he is also a lot younger. The top 6 should probably be Dressel – Milak – Rylov – Finke – Kolesnikov – Scott.

Virtus
Reply to  Chad
3 months ago

Yeah peaty over Milak and even rylov is hella confusing

Sub13
3 months ago

Just a few quick notes (but this list seems pretty much right):

Dressel: The obvious choice. Guaranteed 50 free gold, heavy favourite in 100 fly, favourite in 100 free. WR potential in all 3.

Peaty: Seems a little high for me. Guaranteed 100 breast gold and favourite for the 50, but a WR seems unlikely to me this year. I would have him at 4-5.

Rylov: I would have him at #2. Favourite in both Olympic backstrokes, with WR potential, decent in 50 back and multiple free events.

Finke: I would have him a few places back, maybe 6-7. Two Olympic golds is impressive, but he didn’t swim the top time in either event. I wouldn’t even call him… Read more »

Peter Peaty, Adam's long lost brother
Reply to  Sub13
3 months ago

Guaranteed is too strong a word to use for ANYONE, including Dressel, in 50 free. The event has a history of upsets, and frankly Dressel is nowhere near a ‘guarantee’ to win it even with his start. Favourite, yes. Guaranteed, no.

AnEn
3 months ago

1) I don’t think that Kamminga and Seto should be top 10 (instead i would have 2 out of Hafanoui/Wellbrock/Romanchuk/Andrew/Kamminga/Popovici/Dean in the top 10).
2) How the hell is Peaty ahead of Rylov/Finke/Milak?
3) Why is Muprhy ranked ahead of Kamminga/Romanchuk?
4) I would rank those 10 guys as follows:
Dressel
Milak
Rylov
Finke
Kolesnikov
Scott
Peaty
Murphy
Chalmers/Seto

Sub13
Reply to  AnEn
3 months ago

Why would you remove Seto, who had no individual Olympic medals, and replace him with Andrew, who also had no individual Olympic medals?

I can definitely see the argument for Seto being way lower based on performance last year.

AnEn
Reply to  Sub13
3 months ago

1) Seto finished 4th (200 IM), 9th (400 IM) and 11th (200 fly), while Andrew finished 4th (100 breast), 4th (50 free) and 5th (200 IM) -> Andrew reached 3 finals while Seto only reached 1 final. Andrew was better in his 3rd best event than Seto was in his 2nd best event. In addition to that Andrew probably could have made the 100 fly final and Andrew also is clearly better than Seto in non-olympic events.
2) Andrew is on an upward trajectory while Seto is on a downward trajectory (Seto is also 5 years older)

tea rex
Reply to  Sub13
3 months ago

In terms of a “swimmer to watch”, Andrew’s near the top of my list for a World Champs year. So much intrigue. No one else has 7 individual event options. Will he medal in any of those 50s? Could he medal in ALL those 50s? If he and Seto go the same time in 200 IM, I’m way more interested to see how Andrew put it together.
And if he can keep his foot out of his mouth with the media, that’d be better.

Stewart 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Reply to  tea rex
3 months ago

Why taking Seto as the reference? Wang, Scott and Andrew himself all went faster than Seto’s PR last year. If Andrew goes the same time with Seto, it means he fails to match his own PR once again. And Seto is also a front-ended swimmer, although not to the extent of Andrew. It will be more interesting to see Andrew alongside Wang or Scott who are back-ended.

Last edited 3 months ago by Stewart 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Virtus
Reply to  AnEn
3 months ago

Any of those people over seto makes 0 sense

jeff
3 months ago

Interesting that the women’s side seems to be a lot more top heavy. The top 10 women earned a combined 13 individual gold and 7 silver in Tokyo while these 10 men won 9 gold and 5 silver, out of 14 events in total- the only event in which the gold medalist is missing on the women’s side is the 100 breast, while the men’s side is missing the 200/400 free, 200/400 IM and 200 breast, and in 3 of those events, not even the silver medalist appears on this list.

Even outside of the top 5, there are swimmers who have broken a world record or won multiple gold medals on the women’s side but no one 6-10… Read more »

Katie Legoatkey
Reply to  jeff
3 months ago

I think it partially has to do with the fact that the 400 free and the 400 IM were both very slow events on the mens side and the winners of each event won partially because faster swimmers choked

Katie Legoatkey
Reply to  Katie Legoatkey
3 months ago

edited

Last edited 3 months ago by Yanyan Li
Rafael
Reply to  Katie Legoatkey
3 months ago

The same can be said about The 1500..

wow
3 months ago

Peaty too high.
Chalmers too high.
Scott wayy too low.

Rafael
Reply to  wow
3 months ago

Rylov should not be top 10
Milak top 3
Finke should be on 10th or 9th

Rafael
Reply to  Rafael
3 months ago

I mean Murphy should not be top 10

AnEn
Reply to  Rafael
3 months ago

I think you can rank him 9th or 10th, but i don’t see how he is ranked ahead of Kamminga (and ahead all of Wellbrock/Romanchuk/Hafnaoui/Dean).

Rafael
Reply to  AnEn
3 months ago

While fink won I think wellbrock or paltrinieri have a bigger chance to win based on PBs.

HJones
Reply to  AnEn
3 months ago

Yea I don’t get ranking Kamminga behind Murphy.

AnEn
Reply to  wow
3 months ago

Agree about the first two, but wouldn’t say that Scott is way too low (i would have him at 6).

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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